The Seventh Fleet's awful, no-good, unlucky year - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Some folks had a very good 2017, but the Seventh Fleet isn’t among them. This force will be on the front lines if the Korean War restarts and it also has to manage relationships in the South China Sea, which have been shaky at best as of late. So, just how bad has their year been?


The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
USS Ronald Reagan arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in RIMPAC 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shawn D. Torgerson)

The collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) that left 17 sailors dead rightly grabbed headlines. They were the catalyst for the relief of Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin and the forced retirement of Admiral Scott Swift.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin. (US Navy photo)

However, these two bizarre, tragic collisions weren’t the only maritime incidents of 2017. The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) collided with a South Korean fishing boat on May 9. In January, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), a sister ship of the Lake Champlain, ran aground in Tokyo Bay.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain. (Photo by US 7th Fleet Public Affairs.)

Unfortunately, the Navy’s woes weren’t exclusive to the sea. Late last month, the crash of a C-2 Greyhound southwest of Okinawa claimed lives. Although, eight sailors were rescued, three died in the crash of the aircraft. Reports indicate that the pilot, Lieutenant Steven Combs, is under consideration for an award for his excellent airmanship during the incident, cited as the reason for any survivors at all.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Dylan Mills directs the crew of a C-2A Greyhound from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano)

The Seventh Fleet also faced reverberations from the “Fat Leonard” scandal, which had caught up a number of officers, including Vice Admiral Ted Branch, the Navy’s top intelligence officer. Branch was later cleared of criminal wrongdoing, but had served in his post without a security clearance. A number of other officers were charged and sentenced to prison for their misdeeds during the scandal.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
Vice Adm. Ted Branch (US Navy photo)

Thankfully, for the Seventh Fleet, 2017 is almost over. Hopefully, 2018 will prove to be very different for this naval force.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force wants Tyndall to host F-35s after hurricane

Following the damage to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, caused by Hurricane Michael, the Air Force is recommending that Congress use supplemental funding for rebuilding the base to prepare to receive the F-35 Lightning II fighter at the north Florida installation.

The Air Force has done a preliminary evaluation to confirm Tyndall AFB can accommodate up to three F-35 squadrons. The operational F-22 Raptors formerly at Tyndall AFB can also be accommodated at other operational bases increasing squadron size from 21 to 24 assigned aircraft.

If this decision is approved and supplemental funds to rebuild the base are appropriated, F-35s could be based at Tyndall AFB beginning in 2023. Basing already announced in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Texas, Utah,
Vermont, and Wisconsin will not be affected by this decision.


“We have recommended that the best path forward to increase readiness and use money wisely is to consolidate the operational F-22s formerly at Tyndall in Alaska, Hawaii, and Virginia, and make the decision now to put the next three squadrons of F-35s beyond those for which we have already made decisions at Tyndall,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.

“We are talking with Congressional leaders about this plan and will need their help with the supplemental funding needed to restore the base,” she added.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

A 325th Fighter Wing F-22A Raptor taxis off the runway at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 20, 2018. The first Raptors arrived to their temporary home at Eglin from Tyndall Air Force Base. This move is part of mission shift by the Air Force as Hurricane Michael recovery efforts continue at Tyndall.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael tore through the gulf coast causing catastrophic damage to the region and damaging 95 percent of the buildings at Tyndall AFB. The base’s hangars and flight operations buildings suffered some of the greatest damage from the storm passing directly overhead.

Before the storm, Tyndall AFB was home to the 325th Fighter Wing — comprised of two F-22 squadrons. One was operational and one was training. The base also hosts the 1st Air Force, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.

More than 2,000 personnel have since returned to the base and the Air Force intends to keep the testing, air operations center, and civil engineer missions at Tyndall AFB. The recommendation announced today only affects the operational fighter flying mission at the base.

On Oct. 25, 2018, Vice President Mike Pence assessed the damage to the base and reassured Florida’s panhandle community of the base’s importance to the nation.

“We will rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base,” Pence said.

Tyndall AFB’s access to 130,000 square miles of airspace over the Gulf of Mexico is very valuable for military training.

“We have been given a chance to use this current challenge as an opportunity to further improve our lethality and readiness in support of the National Defense Strategy,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L.
Goldfein.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base takes off during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III)

The move would provide benefits across the service’s fifth generation fighter operations. Basing F-35s at Tyndall AFB in the wake of hurricane damage allows the Air Force to use recovery funds to re-build the base in a tailored way to accommodate the unique needs of the F-35.

The Air Force will conduct a formal process to determine the best location for the F-22 training squadron currently displaced to Eglin AFB, Florida.

The consolidation will drive efficiencies which Air Force officials expect to increase the F-22’s readiness rate and address key recommendations from a recent Government Accountability Office report that identified small unit size as one of the challenges with F-22 readiness.

“The F-35 is a game-changer with its unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability, and adaptability,” Goldfein said. “Bringing this new mission to Tyndall ensures that the U.S Air Force is ready to dominate in any
conflict.”

The Air Force will comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Teen loses over 100 pounds to join Army

Luis Enrique Pinto Jr. joined the Army so he could do something different. But first, he had to do something extraordinary.

Just seven months ago, the 6-foot-1-inch teenager was overweight at 317 pounds and unable to pass the Army’s weight requirements.

The former high school football offensive lineman admitted his diet was full of carbohydrates, but he vowed to slim down so he could sign up.

Luis, 18, recalled being part of something bigger than himself while playing on his football team, and he craved for that again with the Army.


“I transferred that same mentality over to life after high school,” he said Aug. 14, 2019.

Initially, his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long, was skeptical, but still supported his goal.

Long, who has served as a recruiter for almost four years, said he often sees potential recruits struggle to pass requirements even when they only have a few pounds to lose.

“They never put the effort into it,” he said. “They never actually care enough and they don’t go anywhere. And then you turn around and you got someone like Luis.”

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Before and after shots of Luis Enrique Pinto Jr., who lost 113 pounds in seven months in order to pass the Army’s weight requirements. Luis enlisted as a 14E, which is responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, and plans to report to basic training in September 2019.

Slimming down

Luis was born in Oakland, but later grew up in Peru and Las Vegas. He currently works as an electrician at construction sites, but recently decided he wanted to be the first in his family to serve in the U.S. military.

“You’ve got one life. I don’t want to wake up and do the same thing every single day,” he said. “There’s a whole world out there.”

Before he could sign the enlistment papers, he cracked down on his diet and stepped up his fitness to cut his weight.

Cardio was his toughest hurdle, he said. He began to do high-intensity interval training where he switched between jogs and sprints to improve his run time.

“Running wasn’t my strong suit,” he said. “Carrying all that extra weight and trying to run definitely increased my time.”

As the months dragged on, he extended his interval training. He now runs 1 mile in just six minutes and 30 seconds — about half the time he ran it when he first started.

His mother also motivated him to hit the gym, especially on those days when he felt like taking an off day.

“One thing she told me is to just show up,” he said. “Just show up and don’t worry about the workout that’s to come. You show up at the gym and once you’re there, you’re already there so might as well just get it over with.”

The near-daily workouts began to pay off and he shed pound after pound — 113 of them to be exact.

Now at 204 pounds, Luis has also seen a positive change in his attitude.

“When I was big, I was really insecure,” he said. “Now I’m walking with my head up high.”

His recruiter said Luis’ dedication to lose over 100 pounds should be an inspiration to others.

“That’s a human. He lost the equivalent of a human in seven months,” Long said.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Luis Enrique Pinto Jr. with his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long. Luis lost 113 pounds in seven months in order to pass the Army’s weight requirements. With help from his recruiter, he enlisted as a 14E, which is responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, and plans to report to basic training in September 2019.

Basic training

With help from his recruiter, Luis was able to enlist as a 14E — responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, one of the world’s most advanced missile systems.

The new job also came with a ,000 bonus.

Luis plans to report to basic training in early September 2019. He started future soldier training this week to learn what to expect in the weeks ahead as well as in his Army career.

He also blew past the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, which the Army now administers to new recruits to ensure they can physically perform a certain job.

“Every event was like it was made for him; it was easy,” Long said.

Whatever the challenge Luis may face in the Army, his recruiter has no doubt he can overcome it.

“To have that heart and that drive to keep pushing forward, it’s impressive. It got him to where he can enlist in the Army,” Long said. “That mentality is going to carry him through his career and through life and he’ll be extremely successful.”

Luis said he looks forward to the extra physical training within the Army lifestyle, as he now aims to drop down to 190 pounds.

“Hitting my goal weight definitely isn’t my end goal,” he said. “There’s still way more to come. I still want to get better.”

But for now, the wardrobe the Army plans to issue him should at least accommodate his current figure.

“I pretty much use my old shirts for blankets at this point,” he said, laughing.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

FBI Chief vows to keep working to discover ex-agent’s fate in Iran

FBI Director Chris Wray says the top U.S. law enforcement agency will never give up on “finding out what happened” to former agent Robert Levinson, who the U.S. government believes died while in Iranian custody.

In an e-mail to FBI staff seen by the Associated Press on March 26, Wray said he had met with the family of Robert Levinson and “we explained that the most credible evidence we have collected over the past 13 years points to the likelihood that Bob died in captivity.”


The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

“It pained me to deliver that news, but I believe that we owed Bob’s family a thorough and candid presentation of the information that we’ve collected,” Wray wrote.

Wray did not provide details on the “credible evidence” he said the family had received.

“We’re going to keep working doggedly to determine the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction and his time in captivity, to find the answers we all want and that the Levinsons deserve,” Wray said.

Levinson, who was born in March 1948, disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort island of Kish in March 2007. He was working for the CIA as a contractor at the time.

The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to help locate Levinson and bring him home, but Iranian officials said they had no information about his fate.

However, when he disappeared, an Iranian government-linked media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces.”

Tehran on March 26 said in a statement that Levinson left Iran “long ago” and that Iranian authorities don’t know where he is, rejecting the claim that he died in Iranian custody.

“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mosavi said in the statement.

He added that officials had done everything possible to find out what happened after Levinson left Iran but had found “no evidence of him being alive.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vultures are taking over a Customs and Border Protection radio tower

For a radio tower and surrounding buildings operated by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) near the Texas-Mexico border, vultures are no joke. Around 300 of the carnivorous birds have roosted in its radio tower, and are creating communications issues thanks to their corrosive vomit and feces.

Quartz reports that CBP filed a request for information that includes details about the problems the vultures have created at the radio tower, which is now entirely coated in “droppings mixed with urine” that have also fallen on the ground and surrounding buildings below, where people work and equipment is kept.


Furthermore, a CBP spokesperson told Quartz that workers have anecdotes of the vultures dropping prey from as high as 300 feet above, creating a “terrifying and dangerous” work environment for the past six years.

Vultures regurgitate a corrosive vomit as a defense mechanism that can kill bacteria on their legs but also eat away at the metal radio tower, making it unsafe for maintenance workers to climb it and reducing the tower’s lifespan.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

An adult Turkey Vulture at Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, California, USA.

(Photo by Don DeBold)

Large groups of vultures also smell like corpses – the species is known, of course, for feeding on dead flesh, or carrion. Undigested bones and fur can be found at the base of where vultures roost.

But CBP can’t kill the vultures, as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act made that illegal in 1918. Instead, the agency is searching for a “viable netting deterrent” to stop the vultures from roosting on the radio tower. CBP told Quartz that it’s working with the Fish and Wildlife Agency, the USDA, environmental experts, and the Texas State Historical Preservation Officer to find a solution that doesn’t harm any of the vultures.

The agency also says there are no nests or baby birds in the tower. There are plans to clean and repair the radio tower before installing nets by August, before the natural heavy roosting cycle begins in the fall.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese spies have reportedly hacked president’s phone

Frustrated current and former US officials warned that President Donald Trump’s personal Apple iPhone is being monitored by Chinese spies, according to a New York Times report published Oct. 24, 2018.

Trump reportedly has two iPhones that were programmed by the National Security Agency for official use, but he keeps a third, personal phone that remains unaltered — much like the normal iPhones on the consumer market, according to the officials.


Unlike the other government-managed phones, Trump uses the unaltered personal iPhone because of its ability to store contacts, The Times reported. One of the two official phones is designated for making calls, the other one is for Twitter.

The information Chinese spies have collected included who Trump regularly speaks to and why, The Times said, and was part of a wider lobbying effort to influence Trump’s friends and business associates. US intelligence agencies discovered the espionage campaign from sources in foreign governments and communications from foreign officials.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

(Flickr photo by Japanexperterna.se)

Through its efforts, China reportedly identified Blackstone Group chief executive Stephen Schwarzman, who has ties to Beijing’s Tsinghua University, and former Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn as potential targets in an influence campaign to curb the ongoing trade war with China.

China’s plan included targeting and encouraging Trump’s associates to persuade the president to formally meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, one official said to The Times.

Despite the security compromise, current and former officials reportedly cited Trump’s unfamiliarity in matters of intelligence and said they believe he was not divulging sensitive information through his personal phone.

The White House’s communication methods have long been scrutinized by people familiar with the situation. Much to the chagrin of the officials, Trump is believed to quietly make calls to current and former aides. Separately, the White House chief of staff John Kelly’s phone was reportedly compromised for months in 2017.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian protests have ebbed, but the anger remains

A 19-year-old participant in Iran’s recent street protests says that while the wave of public demonstrations has subsided, the antiestablishment unrest in December and early January opened many Iranians’ eyes and the underlying anger remains.


“Nothing [the authorities] do will decrease people’s anger and frustration,” Hadi, the son of a working-class family in the northwestern city of Tabriz, told RFE/RL.

Tabriz is one of more than 90 cities and towns where protests were unleashed after a Dec. 28 demonstration in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city, over rising prices and other grievances.

At least 22 people are thought to have been killed in the unrest, which targeted government policies but also featured chants against Iran’s clerically dominated system and attacks on police and other official institutions.

The demonstrations have tapered off in the past week amid a pushback by authorities that included harsh warnings and a conspicuous show of force by security troops, the blocking of Internet access and social media, and reports of three deaths in custody and thousands of arrests.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials have blamed the flare-up on foreign “enemies.”

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. (Photo from Khamenei.ir)

But President Hassan Rohani took a different tack, leaving open the possibility of foreign influence but adding, “We can’t say that whoever who has taken to the street has orders from other countries.” Rohani acknowledged that “people had economic, political, and social demands” and said Iranians “have a legitimate right to demand that we see and hear them and look into their demands.”

Iranian officials were said to have eased some of the price increases stoking some of the protests.

Won’t get ‘fooled’ again

Hadi, who asked RFE/RL not to publish his last name, dismissed that and other steps as mere attempts to ward off public anger in the short term and said he thought such tactics have lost their effectiveness.

“They may decrease the price of eggs, thinking that they can fool people. But people are now very much aware,” Hadi said.

Hadi talked of his own frustration at being accepted into Iran’s Islamic Azad University but being unable to afford the school’s fees.

“My father says [Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] promised that we won’t even pay for water, [that revolutionaries] said they would give everyone free housing,” he said, adding that four decades later many Iranians struggle to make ends meet.

Related: Everything you need to know about the protests rocking Iran

Hadi said he and dozens of others took to the streets of Tabriz to complain of high prices, poverty, and repression in a country where he says authorities “bully” citizens.

The protests, Iran’s largest since a disputed election sent millions into the streets in 2009, were initially fueled by economic grievances and mostly young citizens frustrated by an ailing economy and a potentially bleak future.

Some Iranians envisaged rising prosperity two years after an international deal traded sanctions relief for checks on Tehran’s nuclear program, and Rohani campaigned for election in 2013 and reelection last year pledging mild reforms and more jobs.

Angry young men

A journalist in Tehran who did not want to be named attributed the protests to “angry young men” disappointed by reformists and conservatives, with no hope in the future.

“They have nothing to lose,” said the reporter, who had witnessed several protests in the Iranian capital.

The demonstrations morphed quickly into protests against the clerical establishment and the country’s leaders. Protesters called for an “Iranian republic” instead of an “Islamic republic,” while some complained that the clerics who have been ruling Iran since the 1979 revolution should “get lost.”

Many demonstrators also complained of Iran’s actions in the Middle East, including its military and other support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and aid to militants in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. They said Tehran should instead focus its resources on Iranians.

“Where in the world does a government spend its money on another country?” Hadi said. “[Assad] supports Iran because he is investing Iran’s money in his country.”

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
Iran protests. (Screenshot from Nano GoleSorkh YouTube)

Hadi said he was frustrated at Rohani for abandoning social and economic promises: “He should take action, not just talk. He made many promises four years ago, but he hasn’t achieved them.”

But Hadi primarily blamed Khamenei — who, as supreme leader, holds the final word on religious and political affairs in Iran — for the state of affairs in the country, including the ailing economy and corruption.

“He is the main culprit, and his establishment,” Hadi said, adding that Iranian leaders “don’t know how to rule.”

Khamenei was the target of some of the chants, with protesters shouting, “Death to the Dictator!” and, “Death to Khamenei!” in many places.

Turning point

Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said last week that the people and security forces had ended the unrest, which it said was fomented by Iran’s foreign enemies.

Former student leader Ali Afshari, who has been tortured in an Iranian jail for protesting against the establishment, also warned that there could be more unrest in Iran’s future.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (Photo from CounterExtremism.com)

“The forces that took part in these protests are different than those behind other demonstrations we’ve seen in past years,” said Afshari, who now lives in the United States. “They came out because of their basic needs; and since the establishment has serious problems on the economic front, it doesn’t have the ability to respond to these needs.”

Afshari predicted the latest wave of protests would mark a “turning point” in Iran’s modern political history.

“The geographical scope of these protests were unprecedented in Iran’s recent history. Within a week, protests were held spontaneously in 82 cities across Iran.”

Meanwhile in Tabriz, Hadi insisted that the rage that sent him and others into to the streets won’t go away.

“This regime has to go, that’s what I want,” he said. “In Tabriz, we say that now the regime is even afraid or our silence.”

Accounts are just starting to emerge of detainees locked up in connection with the protests, and Iranian officials continue to block many social-media networks and other sources of information, including Western radio and television.

“Even if there are no more protests [right now], it will explode one day,” Hadi said. “This is not the end.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers honor WWII Army veteran brothers

Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.

Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.

The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.


Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.

Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.

He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.

(Ed Sikora)

He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.

After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.

Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.

Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.

(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)

In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.

In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.

Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.

John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why former NFL player decided to join the Army

A former NFL Arizona Cardinals cornerback is training for his new team — the Army.

Spc. Jimmy Legree is in his second week of Basic Combat Training; after he graduates he’ll continue training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become a communications specialist.

Serving in the military was one of his childhood goals, said Legree, who is assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery.


“I went a different route by going to college and playing football, but once that window was closed I reverted back to my Plan A, which was joining the military,” said Legree, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2013.

There are similarities between football and BCT, and it was an easy transition for him, he said.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Spc. Jimmy Legree, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Okla.

(Fort Sill Tribune staff)

“You have your head coaches and that’s similar to drill sergeants who are correcting any mistakes that you make, said Legree, who played two seasons for the Cardinals.

“In football you wear a helmet and shoulder pads, and here you wear your ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) and all your equipment.”

Former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman is an inspiration for him, said Legree.

“He is definitely inspiring — his passion for the game, and his passion for the country was motivation for me,” Legree said.

Legree’s parents were not in the military, but other extended family members and some of his friends have served in the armed forces, he said. His brethren of former teammates supported his decision to join the military.

Legree enlisted at Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Once they (recruiters) found out I played for the NFL they were all ecstatic, but definitely excited to get me enlisted, get me going.”

Legree is treated no different than the other 215 trainees in the battery, said Capt. Steven Paez, D/1-19th FA commander. The trainees came here to become professional American soldiers and everyone is treated the same.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Spc. Jimmy Legree (with mouthpiece) practices combatives Dec. 11, 2019, with Pvt. Anthony Randolph at Fort Sill, Okla. Legree, who played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training.

(Fort Sill Tribune staff)

Paez said he learned Legree had played in the NFL when he was serving him Thanksgiving dinner. (It’s an Army tradition where senior leaders serve junior soldiers the holiday meal.)

“I noticed he was a little older (age 28) than everybody else, and I asked him what he was doing before he got here. He said, ‘I was in the NFL.'”

Legree is not the oldest trainee in the battery, Paez said. The oldest is 34 years old; the youngest is 17.

Senior Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jason Aqui, D/1-19th FA, described Legree as a mature, humble, positive, and quiet trainee.

“I’ve definitely noticed that he brings the platoon together to accomplish its tasks,” Aqui said. He was also one of the more physically fit trainees coming into BCT.

Drill sergeants will take advantage of Legree’s maturity and put him into leadership positions as the 10-week BCT progresses, Aqui said.

The battery will graduate Feb. 21, 2019, and Legree said he is already thinking of a long military career.

MIGHTY TRENDING

At the Navajo Nation, an injection of hope

One month ago, RN Terri Whitson was mucking out hurricane-damaged houses in Lake Charles, LA. On Tuesday, she was at the Navajo Nation vaccinating frontline workers against COVID-19.

Making that vaccine delivery was very emotional for Whitson, who retired from the Navy in 2016 and has spent much of the past year volunteering on feeding operations and assisting with hurricane relief with Team Rubicon.

“What I heard more times than not, is ‘it’s the beginning of the end.’ We’re just hopeful that things are going to get back to normal and people are not going to be sick anymore. People are not going to be dying,” said Whitson of her first day providing vaccines. “And, to think that I had a small, itty bitty part in that is pretty amazing.”

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
Greyshirt Terri Whitson vaccinates a fellow nurse at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

Whitson, who served in the Navy Nurse Corps, deployed as a volunteer nurse with Team Rubicon at the Gallup Indian Medical Center on December 6 having no idea she’d be there when the vaccine arrived. When she heard it was coming she asked to extend her deployment by another week so that she could help get the vaccine into the arms of people who need it most.

“I feel pretty fortunate to have been involved in this, and to be involved in something that I think is so huge—so huge that it could possibly bring everybody’s lives back to normal again and provide protection for these frontline workers in the hospitals who are just so overwhelmed,” Whitson says, before stopping to dry some tears. She gets a little emotional thinking about the losses Americans, and medical workers, have experienced over the past nine months.

Before the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation, Whitson had spent weekdays at the Medical Center working with employee health services, where she would talk with people about their test results—hard, emotional work in itself given the number of positives and knowing how short-staffed the system already was. On the weekends, when health services was closed, she swabbed noses at the drive-through coronavirus testing site, which is open to the public.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
COVID-19 vaccine on ice at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

When the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation at 10 a.m. on Monday, Whitson was on the team that began setting up a vaccination space. It’s a place, Whitson says, that people might receive a bit of hope. On Tuesday, she delivered her first COVID-19 vaccination there.

For now, IHS and the team are focusing on vaccinating those frontline workers who have the most exposure to COVID-19 patients, such as people working in the emergency department, anesthesiologists, and hospitalists. The hospital, which has more than 1,300 employees, has received 640 doses of the vaccine.

By the end of the day Tuesday, the team had vaccinated 80 of their fellow doctors and nurses; on Wednesday, they expect to vaccinate another 95 more.

“You can feel an excitement, and people were joking and laughing,” says Whitson of her time administering the first shots. Everyone also wanted to either have a picture taken or be videotaped making history. “It was joyous. It was such a good feeling.”

That joy was a lift for Whitson, too. She’d spent the prior week hearing codes called in the hospital and hearing ambulances come and go, and knowing for herself just how devastating the pandemic has been in this community.

“It was a good day. It was a really good day, and it felt really good to give people … to hear them say, ‘you know, this is the beginning of the end’,” Whitson says, stopping to clear her throat. “You know, we were giving them an injection of hope.”

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
Greyshirt Terri Whitson prepares for a day of vaccinating frontline medical workers at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

This article originally appeared on TEAM RUBICON. Follow TEAM RUBICON on Twitter @TEAM RUBICON.

Articles

Two Air Force pilots eject in U-2 crash on West Coast

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year
USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady | U.S. Air Force photo


Two U.S. Air Force pilots have ejected after a U-2 spy plane crashed around noon local time during a training mission on the West Coast, a service spokesman said.

Lt. Col. Michael Meridith, a spokesman for the Air Force, confirmed the incident on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference outside Washington, D.C., but he didn’t know the whereabouts or the condition of the service members. “It did crash,” he said when asked if the plane went down. “Two pilots ejected.”

Meridith said a search and rescue operation for the crew was under way.

The U.S. Air Force press desk later tweeted, “We can confirm a U-2 from @9thRW Beale AFB has gone down in Sutter County, CAA; 2 pilots have ejected; details to follow when available,” referring to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.

But officials walked back their initial statements on the pilots’ condition as the day went on.

“We have no official confirmation on the pilots’ condition,” Beale Air Force Base tweeted later in the day. “We will provide updates when more information is available.”

Air Combat Command around the same time issued a similar statement to correct a previous one that wrongly stated the pilots had “safely” ejected and were “awaiting recovery with aircraft in isolated area.”

The U-2 Dragon Lady is a Cold War-era surveillance plane based at Beale Air Force Base in California. Trainer models of the aircraft hold two crew members.

This story has been updated.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Organizations try to help USCG as members miss first paycheck

Twenty-four days into the longest government shutdown in US history, the strain is being felt acutely by the US Coast Guard, as some 42,000 active-duty members are preparing to miss their first paycheck on Jan. 15, 2019.

In a Jan. 10, 2019 letter, Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray said that without an appropriation or funding measure, “the Coast Guard will not be able to meet the next payroll,” an extreme disruption that officials averted in late December 2018 by moving funds around.


“Let me assure you your leadership continues to do everything possible, both internal and external to the Service, to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation,” Ray added. “However, I do not know when that will occur.”

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

(The 621st Contingency Response Wing)

The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are funded through the Defense Department, which got it its fiscal year 2019 budget in the fall, and none of their troops are missing a paycheck.

But the Coast Guard, while technically a military branch, is funded through the Homeland Security Department, funding for which has been held up amid a dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over .7 billion Trump wants to start construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border.

A work-around secured funding for Coast Guard payroll on Dec. 31, 2018, paying the service’s active-duty members and reservists who drilled before funding lapsed, but service leaders have said it cannot be repeated. Civilian employees are unpaid since Dec. 21, 2018.

Active-duty members deemed essential have continued working, as have about 1,300 civilian workers. Most of the service’s 8,500 civilian employees have been furloughed, and pay and benefits for some 50,000 retired members and employees could be affected.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

US Coast Guard ice-rescue team members participate in training on Lake Champlain at Coast Guard Station Burlington, Burlington, Vermont, Feb. 17, 2017.

(US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison)

The service continues to operate, however.

In the Coast Guard’s 14th district, which covers 12.2 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, 835 active-duty personnel and some civilians are still working from bases in Hawaii and Guam and detachments in Japan and Singapore, carrying out “essential operations” such as search-and-rescue and law enforcement, 14th district spokeswoman Chief Sara Muir told Stars and Stripes.

Between Dec. 21, 2018, and Jan. 7, 2019, the district handled 46 cases, including two major ones, Muir said. On Jan. 13, 2019, Coast Guard personnel medevaced a crew member off a fishing vessel 80 miles north of Kauai.

Other operations, like recreational-vessel safety checks and issuing or renewing licenses and other administrative work, has been curtailed. The service has said vendors who provide fuel and other services also won’t be paid until funding resumes.

As the shutdown drags on, communities around the country have mustered to support Coast Guard members and families, particularly junior members, many of whom lack savings.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Crew members from Coast Guard Station Sand Key, Florida, take part in survival swim training, Dec. 8, 2017.

(US Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)

On Jan. 12, 2019, dozens of northern Michigan residents gathered for a silent auction and donation event, with funds raised going toward expenses like rent, medical bills, and heating for service members and their families.

“Whenever you cannot predict when you’re gonna get your next paycheck, but you know exactly when the bills are due, it causes a lot of stress,” Kenneth Arbogast, a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer, told UpNorthLive.com. “And for younger members, young families, that’s really a challenge.”

On Jan. 13, 2019, more than 600 service members, including 168 families, gathered in Alameda, California, for a giveaway organized by the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club, providing them with everything from fresh fruit to diapers.

“It’s worrisome. I have to put food in my family’s belly,” said Coast Guard mechanic Kyle Turcott, who is working without pay. “Ain’t no telling, we may not get paid until the first of next month,” added Nathan Knight, another service member.

The organizers said they were working on another food drive and could host another distribution event this week.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Coast Guard cutter Munro passes under the Golden Gate Bridge on its way into the Bay Area, April 6, 2017.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Stanton)

On Jan. 14, 2019, Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey announced that Coast Guard students affected by the shutdown would be able to defer payments until tuition assistance was available again. The school has 135 active-duty students — 27 of whom are registered for February 2019.

In Rhode Island, Roger Williams University said that on Jan. 15, 2019, it would offer free dining-hall meals to active-duty Coast Guard members and their families from Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

Navy Federal Credit Union, which serves military members, veterans, and civilian Defense Department employees, has said it would offer no-interest loans up to ,000 to workers affected by the shutdown, with repayment automatically deducted from paychecks once direct-deposit resumes.

In his Jan. 10, 2019 letter, Ray also said that the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Board had increased the interest-free loans it was offering, focusing on junior members, allowing those with dependents to get up to id=”listicle-2626058172″,000.

The Seventh Fleet’s awful, no-good, unlucky year

Crewmembers of the Coast Guard cutter Mohawk and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South on a self-propelled semi-submersible, July 3, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

In Texas, Coast Guard noncommissioned officers have raised money through local chapters of the Coast Guard Petty Officers Association. In early January 2019, they brought in food to cook at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, encouraging younger service members to take food home.

Erin Picou, whose husband is a chief petty officer with 17 years experience, said her family could cover the most important bills, but the mortgage for their house, on which they spent their savings six months ago, is less certain.

“It’s pretty scary. I don’t want the bank to take my new house,” Picou told The San Antonio Express-News.

“I can’t speak for them, but I myself think my husband has worked his ass off. He needs to get a paycheck,” Picou added. “It’s hard to focus on search and rescue if you don’t know whether your kids and family are going to have a roof over their head and food on the table.”

Measures have been introduced to Congress to ensure pay for Coast Guard members. However, Ray said, “I cannot predict what course that legislation may take.”

In a Facebook post on Jan. 13, 2019, Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told service members the branch was continuing “228 years of military service around the globe,” including preparations for yearly ice-clearing in Antarctica, maritime-security operations in the Middle East, and drug interdictions in Central and South America.

“While our Coast Guard workforce is deployed, there are loved ones at home reviewing family finances, researching how to get support, and weighing childcare options — they are holding down the fort,” Schultz wrote.

“Please know that we are doing everything we can to support and advocate for you while your loved one stands the watch,” he added. “You have not, and will not, be forgotten.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The top Marine officer thinks the Corps needs to be more unpredictable and that it needs the ‘Lightning carrier’ to do it

The Marine Corps wants to overhaul its force to prepare to be more dispersed and more flexible to deter and, if need be, take on China’s growing military in the Pacific.


“China has moved out to sea, and they have long-range weapons and a lot of them,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said on February 11 at an Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition event on Capitol Hill.

“Those two things have changed the game,” Berger added. “Take those away, in other words, we could keep operating with dominance everywhere we wanted to, as we have. We cannot do that. We can’t get stuck in old things. We are being challenged everywhere.”

Since taking over last summer, Berger has called for a shift from a force suited for fighting insurgencies to one that can square off with China across the Pacific.

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Thirteen US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aboard the USS America.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Chad Swysgood

What Berger has outlined is a lighter, more mobile force that can operate in small units on Pacific islands. But the amphibious force that will support those units is not where it needs to be, Berger said last week.

That may mean the Corps needs new ships in the future, but he said it also needed to make better use of its current assets, which is where the “Lightning carrier” — an amphibious assault ship decked out with 16 to 20 F-35B stealth fighters — comes in.

“I’m in favor of things like the Lightning-carrier concept because I believe we need to tactically and operationally be … unpredictable,” Berger said. “We’ve been sending out every [Amphibious Ready Group] and [Marine Expeditionary Unit] looking mirror-image for 20 years. We need to change that.”

“You would like to see one of those big decks one time go out with two squadrons of F-35s and next time fully loaded with MV-22s and another MEU with a 50-50 combo. Now that’s how you become unpredictable. How do you defend against that?” Berger added.

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The USS Wasp with a heavy F-35 configuration.

US Navy/USS Wasp/Facebook

‘A force multiplier’

The Lightning carrier’s nontraditional configuration is “a force multiplier,” the Corps said in its 2017 aviation plan.

In his commandant’s planning guidance issued in July, Berger said the Corps would “consider employment models of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/MEU other than the traditional three-ship model” and that he saw “potential in the ‘Lightning Carrier’ concept” based on Wasp-class landing-helicopter-dock ships and the newer America-class amphibious assault ships.

The USS Wasp exercised in the South China Sea in spring with 10 F-35Bs aboard, more than it would normally carry.

In October, the USS America sailed into the eastern Pacific with 13 F-35Bs embarked — a first for the America that “signaled the birth of the most lethal, aviation-capable amphibious assault ship to date,” the Corps said.

The Lightning-carrier configuration gives the Marine Air-Ground Task Force aviation element “more of a strike mindset with 12 or more jets that give the fleet or MAGTF commander the ability to better influence the enemy at range,” Lt. Col. John Dirk, a Marine attack-squadron commander aboard the America, said at the time.

In October, then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer touted the concept as a way to augment the fleet at a time when the Navy is pondering the future of its own carriers.

“You might see us do that in the near future,” Spencer said. “We might just launch it out once, just to try it out, put it in a couple of exercises and know that we have it up our sleeve.”

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The USS Wasp in the South China Sea.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker

More ships, more deterrence

Even with the Lightning carrier, more needs to be done, Berger said on Capitol Hill.

“I think our … amphibious fleet has great capability. It is not enough for 2030. It’s not enough for 2025,” he said.

“We need the big decks, absolutely. We need the LPD-17. That is the mothership, the quarterback in the middle,” Berger said, referring to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, the “functional replacement” for more than 41 other amphibious ships. Eleven are in active service, and the Navy plans to buy one in 2021.

“We need a light amphibious force ship, a lot of them, that we don’t have today,” Berger added.

When asked by Military.com, Berger declined to say how many Marines and aircraft those light amphibious ships could carry or whether they would be in the Navy’s new force-structure assessment, which is still being finalized. The Corps is also conducting its own force redesign, which Berger said would be released within the next month.

Berger also said he thought there was a role for the littoral combat ship, four of which the Navy plans to decommission in 2021, and the Navy’s future frigate.

“We cannot put anything on the side right now, not with your adversary building to north of 400” ships, he said, referring to Chinese naval expansion.

“The ships that we have, we need to increase the survivability of them, increase the command-and-control capability of them, arm them where we need to,” Berger added.

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The USS Wasp.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker

Berger and Rep. Mike Gallagher, who also spoke at the Capitol Hill event, both emphasized deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region, and both said that would depend on forces that are stationed forward and dispersed.

The Pentagon is “struggling to figure out how do we do deterrence by denial in Indo-Pacom. How do we deny potential adversaries their objectives in the first place, rather than rolling them back after the fact? That hinges on having forward forces,” said Gallagher, a former Marine officer and a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee.

The challenge is “to develop an entirely new logistics footprint, which includes new ships to support, resupply, and maneuver Marines around the first island chain, littorals, and in a high-threat environment, where speed and mobility serves as the primary defense,” Gallagher said.

That may require new classes of ships, added Gallagher, who told industry representatives in the room that “new classes of ships do not have to mean less work, and in the case of the future amphibious fleet — because I believe we need more potentially smaller amphibious vessels — it might actually mean more work.”

In his remarks, Berger called deterrence “the underpinning of our strategy.”

“I believe that because whatever the cost of deterrence is,” Berger said, “is going to be lower than the cost of a fight, in terms of ships and planes and bodies. So we need to pay the price for deterrence. I’m 100% there.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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